Diaries of a Madman

When Discord breaks free of his stone prison, he proves to be much older and wiser than he was on the show. A being of ancient and unimaginable power, he forces Celestia to make a deal to save her little ponies. What she doesn't realize is that one of the terms of the deal is that she forgets ever making it. Enter Navarone, a poor human just trying to get by—or at least, to the ponies that's what he looks like. Pulled from his home by an accidental summoning from one Twilight Sparkle, Navarone is thrust into a world of ponies and more violence than he expected from such a peaceful seeming world. These are his adventures—with a few asides from everybody's favorite Lord of Chaos, of course.


78. Chapter Sixty-Four—Becoming a real family man

We arrived back at Ponyville a little after noon and were immediately bombarded with absolutely nothing. Seeing me coming and going from a palace chariot was a relatively common occurrence these days, so none of the random unimportant ponies of Ponyville cared. I figured anyone that wanted to talk with me had no clue when I was coming back, and would stop by when they heard I was back in town. Or Twilight would tell me who was looking for me.

As it turned out, Twilight wasn’t going to be telling me anything. Or I should rather say, she wasn’t going to be telling me anything pleasant. “YOU MADE THE PRINCESS CRY!” rang in my ears as soon as I stepped into the library.

I sighed internally. Dammit, Pinkie. “These things happen,” I answered with a shrug as Taya and I let ourselves in the rest of the way. “And you know full well that I have every reason to do so. Or rather, you should be able to suspect that I do.”

“You made. The princess. Cry,” Twilight spat out, glaring at me. “And you’re not even remorseful!”

I crossed my arms. “And why should I be? Give me one reason why I should care.”

She opened her mouth angrily but froze. Her eyes widened for a second before narrowing. “Get out.” I blinked. She continued, “I should have done this a long time ago. Get out of my house.”

Well, this was certainly unexpected. I turned around and walked out. I had been waiting for it, honestly, but I didn’t really think it was ever going to happen.

Flo spoke up as Taya slammed the door shut with her magic before following me. “Twilight would forgive you if you asked, you know,” Flo whispered.

I know. “Taya, you know she wouldn’t make you leave. You should stay with her until I get my place built.”

She blinked. “Why would you have a house built? Why can’t we just buy one?”

I gave her a dark grin. “I have my reasons. I’ll explain it later, when we’re not on the road. Now, again, you need to stay with Twilight.”

“I’m not leaving you,” she answered. I don’t know why I expected anything different.

We walked in silence for a few moments. “Celestia’s gonna be so pissed…” I eventually said with a smile.

“Why would she be mad about Twilight kicking you out?”

I shook my head. “Not that. About what I’m about to do. Let’s go get some candy.”

“…Is now really a good time for candy?” she asked, very confused.

“I can’t think of any better.” She just shook her head, trusting my judgment.

We got to Bon-Bon’s candy shop a few minutes later. There were a few kids in there, getting candy. Bonnie smiled when she saw us. “How can I help you two?” she asked.

“Oh, we’re just looking for a moment,” I answered.

She nodded and went back to watching the kids. I pretended to browse the wares while I formulated a nasty little plan.

When the kids bought their stuff and left, I looked up. “I need to send a message to Chrysalis.”

She gasped before nervously looking around. She gulped before walking over and putting a sign up in the window. “Come with me,” she whispered, leading us to a back room. When we got to one of the back rooms, she turned to us. “How did you know?” she asked in a pained voice.

I waved a hand. “Chrysalis gave me a list the last time I spoke with her. I swore to never use it unless I had to, and I’m in a big pickle right now. Long story short, I just got kicked out of Twilight’s place and I need a house. Getting Chrysalis to build me one would be a slap in the face to all the ponies so that’s what I’m going to do. Can you get a message to her?”

She gave me a pitying look. “What happened?”

“It’s been a long time coming. I kept pissing her off and not caring. It finally came to a head and out into the streets I went.”

She sighed. “Well, if you need a place to stay, you’re welcome with us. You know that.”

I nodded. “I do. But I don’t want to spend a night in a couple’s house. I’d feel like I was intruding. I’ll ask AJ if I can stay at her place until the house is built, assuming Chrysalis does decide to help me. If I can’t stay with her, I’ll try a few other friends. Your offer is appreciated, but it would be awkward, I think.”

She nodded. “Well, the offer is open if you can’t find anywhere else to stay. Of course I’ll get a message to her majesty. What did you want to tell her?”

“I’m going to get a plot of land near the Everfree. I want a fucking fortress built there. If she can get me the workers and the materials, I could pay for the labor. I would also like electricity installed, if possible.” If I was going to do this as an insult to the ponies, I was going to do it in the best way possible. No magic running my fucking house, no sir.

“Elec-what?” she asked.

“Just tell Chrysalis that. It would take too long to explain it. Man, you’ve been away from the hives for a long time, haven’t you?”

She nodded. “I’ve been assigned to Ponyville since I was a foal. It wasn’t a popular choice, but they occasionally send prodigies away at young ages to see how well we would do.” She grinned. “No pony has ever suspected a thing.”

I met her grin. “So Lyra’s never caught on that sometimes your strap-ons are more realistic than normal?”

She choked. Her reaction made me burst out laughing. Taya just sighed and shook her head.

When Bon-Bon was more composed, she said in a somewhat tight voice, “I really need to get back to my shop before anypony gets suspicious…”

I nodded. “Fair enough. When would you expect a response?”

“It will probably be a day or two. If she says no, what will you do?”

Leave Equestria way ahead of schedule. “I’ll figure something out.”

With that, Taya and I were off once again. “So where are we going now?” she asked.

“Mayor’s office. Gotta make sure what I’m doing is legal. If it’s not legal, I have to make it legal.” A thought occurred to me. “Wait, why the fuck am I going to ask AJ? Fuck, I don’t need to sleep, I can do whatever I want all night. Taya, you’re going to stay with Twilight until our house is built. She’ll feel bad enough from kicking me out to let you do so.”

Taya just sighed. I was using the father voice on her and she knew I wouldn’t relent.

We got to the mayor’s office a few minutes later. There were a few construction ponies hanging off the side, repairing some manner of damage to the building. I swear that place gets damaged every few months. It’s usually Derpy’s fault.

Thankfully, there was no line to meet her. Also thankfully, being a knight let me see her immediately instead of having to wait for her convenience. She was sitting behind her desk. I saw her stuffing something under the desk as I walked in, but I didn’t comment on it. A mare’s gotta have her comforts, whatever they may be.

“How can I help you today, Sir Navarone?” she asked, plastering on a fake smile. Mayor Mare was always nervous around me and I was never really certain why. I also didn’t really care, but I did think it was interesting.

“Who owns the land right next to the Everfree? I’m not talking about Fluttershy’s little shack, I’m talking about the area closer to Applejack’s place.”

She blinked. “As far as I know, no pony owns most of the land out there. No pony would want it, with the Everfree forest right there.”

“So would I need a building permit to put a house out there? Or would I need some kind of permission from you?”

She drummed her hooves on the desk. “There is one requirement. I have to warn you that living close to that forest is foolhardy, dangerous, potentially suicidal, and I need to know the names of your next of kin in case something happens.”

“My next of kin is Taya. She’s the only family I have. And I understand the risks better than anyone else on this planet other than maybe Zecora.”

She nodded. “I can get you in contact with a building company. The price will be steep since they’ll demand danger pay for working next to the forest, but they do good work. You’ll also need to talk to the ley line company to get power to the house once it’s built. Once it gets built, you’ll have to have it inspected since you will have a minor living with you. It will also have to be added to the mailing list and to the local maps.”

“Don’t worry about the building company or the ley line people. I got something else in mind. Who do I talk to about inspecting it?”

“The office of building inspections is on the other side of this building. You can find a directory near the entrance. I don’t remember the room number offhoof, or I would tell you.”

“I’ll find it when I need it, then. Thanks, Miss Mare.” I still think Mayor Mare is silly as hell, but that’s her name and title. I just use miss instead, since it makes me feel like less of an idiot.

As I turned to go, she asked, “What brought this up, if you don’t mind me asking? I thought you lived with Twilight Sparkle.”

I looked back at her. “I thought a change of scenery might be nice.” Bon-Bon was a friend and not a gossip. The mayor was not a friend of mine and she apparently gossiped quite a bit to some of her friends. I didn’t want what happened to get out that far if I could help it.

“Oh. Well, I suppose I’ll talk to you later…”

And that was that.


Two days and several avoided friends later, I got a reply from Chrysalis.

I think the statement preceding this demands an explanation before I get onto the actual reply. Why would I be avoiding my friends? Because I knew what they would do: Offer sympathies mixed with an undertone of ‘you deserved it.’ They would also offer me a shower or a place to stay. They may even tell me that Twilight realized what she had done and decided to rectify her mistake. Given that I was wearing my ring the entire time, I wouldn’t be surprised if Celestia and Luna were also hunting for me, to make sure I had a place to stay or something like that.

There were two people that know where I was hiding: Bon-Bon and Taya, and neither of them were telling anyone else.

Anyway, the actual response. When it finally came in, it came in a way I was not expecting at all: In the form of a bug pony queen.

“I do not see him,” I heard her voice say as I ducked into the underbrush. I didn’t want to be found, so when I heard someone walking up I hid.

I stepped out when I got over the shock that Chrysalis herself came. “Fancy seeing you here,” I commented, leaning against a conveniently placed tree. We were near the edge of the Everfree, in a location I knew couldn’t be seen from the sky and gave good cover from the rain. There were four changelings with her, three guards and what I assumed was Bon-Bon.

Chrysalis looked around the area with disdain before looking back to me. “So the great knight has fallen and come to his friend for succor. And tell me, what should the friend answer?”

I grinned. “I haven’t fallen so much as hit a small road bump. You aren’t my only option, either. I just know how much you love tweaking Celestia’s nose, and I knew this would be a good opportunity.”

Chrysalis nodded. “Yes, it would. That is why I have answered your call and why I have come myself. Celestia is not to know that I came here personally, though. Do you mind explaining just what happened and why you are in need of a new house?” I did just that. She was grinning by the end. “I will help you. My spy said you wanted electricity. This is possible, depending on where you want your house.”

“Near the Everfree. Right on the border, if you can put it there. Between the orchard and the small animal farm.”

She nodded. “I will see what I can do. I do not know the terrain, but my builders will find out about it. Using magic, we should be able to survey locations quickly. I believe building efforts can begin in a day, but I admit to not knowing much about architecture. You mentioned you wanted a fortress?”

I shrugged. “I was exaggerating a little bit. I want something that can be defended from all sides and something that can’t easily be breached. I don’t want to be bankrupted, though. And I don’t want it to be so big that I am constantly cleaning it. But a wall would be nice, as would a few spare rooms of various sizes. A pool would also be awesome, but cleaning that fucker would be a bitch. I trust in your architects. If they can make a place as cool as the main hive, they can handle a little manor.”

She nodded. “That they can. And do not worry about price… or cleaning. Changeling labor is free for friends to the hive. Though I have to ask… Why not come back with me?”

“I might, eventually. But I am a knight of Equestria, and eloping with the queen of another nation might look bad. Speaking of that, though, there is a possibility that I’ll be forced to flee Equestria for political reasons. If my first plan doesn’t pan out, you are my second plan.”

“Well well well… What’s this about?”

“Griffin shit. Luna and Celestia fucked up and I’ll take the blame for it because they’re princesses. Politics, basically.”

“You are welcome in the hives if that happens. Are you going to continue hiding in the woods while the house is built? You can have my room in the palace in the hive near here if you desire to stay in the hive until it is finished.”

I shook my head. “I’m getting some of my things and going to a place called Stone Falls for a few days.” That’s where Pinkie’s parents live. I don’t know if I ever mentioned it or not. “I’ll probably be coming back with a naga who will be living with me. A room for each species would be awesome, if it can be reasonably done. I trust you guys to get it done without too many problems.”

“That is… a lot of trust you are putting in us, Navarone.”

I shrugged. “You’ve earned it. None of the changelings have let me down yet. More than I can say about some other races. As soon as I figure out a way to sneak into town and get on a train, I’ll be gone.”

She gave me an odd look. “Why are you sneaking about? It honestly makes no sense to me why you would be here in the woods when you could be with most of your friends. Or in a hotel, if it came to that.”

“To tweak their noses, of course. I know these ponies, Chrysalis. Luna will be absolutely outraged when she finds out. Celestia will be pissed, but she’ll hide it well. I imagine Twilight will probably be crying for a few days because she drove me away with quick and hot words. But none of those reactions will be as pleasant if I don’t have a house to come back to. Do you know the concept of spite?”

She blinked, thinking. “It is a human concept, one I remember from… what you showed me.” Her slightly confused expression slowly turned into a smug one. “Yes, that applies here, in a way. You are dark, Navarone. Very dark. We will assist you in sneaking through town.”

“I need some things from my room, though. Clothes, my sword, my crossbow, some bolts, Taya, and some money.”

She looked at one of her soldiers and jerked her head toward the town. He morphed into a bird and flew off. She turned back to me. “What you need will be at the train station. Leave the forest in fifteen minutes.” She lifted her wings.

“One more thing,” I said, pushing myself off the tree. “I know I stink, but…” I wrapped her in a hug. “It’s good to see you. And thanks for stopping by on such short notice.” I let her go and found that she was blushing. I grinned at that. “I’ll be waiting.” With that, she and her two remaining guards quickly took off. What I assumed was Bon-Bon stayed.

“Be careful with her, Nav,” she warned, morphing back to her normal shape. Well, I say normal, but I’m not certain that applies here. “She is my queen, but she is… off. Different from us.” She blinked, blushing. “I mean, different from the ponies. Now, I need to get back to my shop.” She trotted off into the woods. I would warn her about the danger out here, but she’s smart enough to change shapes and fly away if anything happened.

Fifteen minutes later and some idle musings about what Chrysalis might be doing, I walked out of the woods for the first time in two days. As I walked into town, I wondered about what was different.

It didn’t take me long to figure it out. There weren’t any ponies on the street. None at all. I didn’t see any inside, either. I shrugged and continued on to the train station.

Taya, a bundle of clothes, and a bird were waiting for me there. Taya smiled and jumped up to hug me. The bird cocked its head. I nodded at it and it took off toward town square. With that, I returned Taya’s hug for a moment before letting her go. “I need to get some train tickets. We’re going on a long trip. Hopefully I can get a car with some kind of shower.”

She nodded. “I hope so too. But you don’t need to buy tickets.” She used her magic to pull something out of a bag. It was my all-access train pass that I had completely forgotten about.

“Huh. That’ll save me some cash. I still need to find out when a train is leaving that way, though.”

I walked over to the booth. “When’s the next west-bound train?” I asked him. I don’t know why there was a guy in the train booth when everyone else in town was gone, but I also wasn’t complaining.

He looked over at a schedule and a clock for a moment. “An hour,” he answered, turning back to me. “You two need tickets?”

I held up my pass. He pulled it over and looked at it before nodding. “You’re good to go. Just show that when they come by to check tickets.”

I nodded and went back to Taya. “We’re going to Stone Falls,” I told her.

She blinked. “…Why?”

“To talk to the naga, of course. Oh, and Chrysalis is building us a kickass house.”


I sighed and sat down, pulling her to my side and draping an arm around her. “Taya, I should have said this a long time ago. ‘Okay’ is one of the shittiest answers you can give someone. It implies a bored neutrality and gives the impression that you just plain don’t give a shit. It’s perfectly fine to not care and honestly that’s about what I’ve come to expect, but you should at least pretend to be interested for politeness sake. This is one of the reasons I wish I could go back in time and put you in school. Learning all the facts isn’t the important part, it’s learning how to socialize and deal with others. You may think you can do everything alone, but you will very quickly be proven wrong if you ever try to put that into practice for extended periods of time. Knowing how to ask for help and not sound like a bitch when it’s given are very important skills that can’t be taught, only learned.”

“…Did you just say that I sounded like a bitch?”

“You’re too young to say that word, Taya. And no, I didn’t. I implied it. That’s one of the social things you need to learn.” I let her go, since I know I didn’t smell good. “Now, what did I miss in my two days away?”

“The princesses have been looking for you. So has Twilight. You were right. She wants to apologize and get you to come back to the library. A lot of the others are also looking for you.”

“Did they give any reasons?”

“Rarity really wants to talk to you, but I don’t know why. Applejack needs your help with something, but I don’t know what she needs. Rainbow Dash has just been bored and wants to… hang out.” She said that with an amusing amount of distaste.

“What about the princesses? Did they say why they were hunting?”

She nodded. “The griffin ambassador got a message from the king, who is demanding you be punished. They were both outraged at the price, but I don’t know what it was.” Shit.

“I should have spoken to them before telling Chrysalis to make me a house… Ain’t no reason to build it if I’m going to be fleeing the damn country in a few days.”

She shook her head. “They specifically said that you weren’t going to be hurt. They didn’t tell me what kind of punishment it was, though. If they thought you were going to be hurt, I would have shown them where you were.”

“The fuck kind of punishment could he give me that would piss them both off but not hurt me?” She shrugged. “I guess I’ll find out later. Learn any useful spells lately?”

We spent the next hour waiting on the train talking about all sorts of stuff and her demonstrating spells. No one else came into the train station. Whatever Chrysalis was doing, it had to be fucking big. When the train came, we got on it with no problems. We were gone before anyone in Ponyville knew we were leaving.


There wasn’t a shower in our car, but there was one on the train. We got to town on the next day, her well-rested and me finally clean. The only thing I was missing was my armor, and I honestly didn’t care that I didn’t have it. I wasn’t expecting to need my weapons or my ‘cursed’ items, but I had them on me anyway.

“You know,” I said as we slowly meandered down the nonexistent path to the entrance of the naga cave, “I just wanted a few days to relax when I got back. That party is very hectic all the time, and this one was even worse than the other one.” I had told her stories about it on the train. “It will be nice having our own house. Lonely, sure, but I can get over that.” Oh, if only I knew how wrong I was…

“It won’t be lonely if I’m there.”

“True,” I answered, nodding. “And knowing Pinkie, she wouldn’t let me be lonely anyway, even if I wanted to.” And there’s also the voice in my head. “At least this meeting should go amiably enough. Maybe if I ask nicely, they’ll let us stay here a few days.” As long as I don’t have to stay with the Pie family. No offense to them, but I had no desire to be ogled by farm sisters. If they were less innocent, I would happily have fun with them, but I think they were looking for more than that and I’m definitely not.

“What about food?”

“…That could be a problem, huh.” For her, not for me. “If we have to, we’ll go to town. It’s only a few hours’ walk. Been a few years since I had to cook, but since we’re living alone now, it’s time I relearned. Bet I can still make a decent stir-fry.”

“Pinkie made one of those for me once… It was nice.” Sometimes I forget that the Cakes still offer the recipes I gave Pinkie a long time ago. If I could get Pinkie to serious up for a few hours, I would get her to teach me how to make some basic things. Supplemented with scavenged things from the Everfree, of course.

I was in a pretty good mood when we got to the naga cave. That mood soured immediately when I stepped inside and the guards saw me. “Navarone the human mercenary,” one said in an official-sounding tone and straightening his body, “you are under arrest.”

“…Nope.” I turned around and just walked out. One of his massive hands wrapped around my wings and pulled me back.

“I suggest you stop trying to flee. That will only make it worse.”

“Daddy?” Taya asked, nervousness in her voice.

“Just a moment, dear. Naga, why am I under arrest?”

“For defiling one of our women.”

I relaxed. “Oh, shoot, I can explain that. Yeah, I submit.” I held my hands up and let him pull me back into the cave. Taya followed.

“This is all required, human, so do not take offense.” He pulled my sword from its sheath on my back and passed it to his friend. I held my arm out and he pulled the crossbow from its sling. He left the naga dagger and started patting me down.

“I have a knife up each sleeve, a dagger on each thigh, and a band of knives strapped across my chest,” I told him.

He pulled back, nodding. “The naga knife is allowed. Since you told me of the others, they are allowed.” He turned to the other guy and jerked his head to a small room. The other guy went in and came out without my weapons and carrying a very heavy looking pair of manacles. He passed them to the one that was restraining me. He opened the clasps and I held my arms out. He clamped them shut and dropped them, where they promptly slid off my arms and clanked onto the ground. He looked at them for a moment before looking back to me. We both shrugged and he just said, “Follow me. If you try to escape we’ll pluck your feathers out one by one.”

I ruffled my wings at that, not liking the sound of it. “As long as I am given a chance to explain, I agree to that.” There was also the fact that if it came down to it I would pull my ring off and have Taya teleport us out.

“Follow me, then.” He started off into the cave. Taya and I followed.

“So what kind of punishment would I get if I was found guilty?”

“That will be decided based on the circumstances.”

“So what is it with the reptilian races and hating other races having sex with them?”

“We do not hate that. We do not encourage it either, though. What we do not like is our females having sex outside of marriage.”

I blinked. Well now. That guy just gave me my defense. “Anything important or cool going on in the clan since the last time I was here?”

“We were given a few contracts by the horse queen. Nothing big, as far as I know. You would have to ask the clan leader for more information.” I would be doing that.

Thankfully, the clan leader wasn’t all the way in the back of the cave next to the pond, he was in the front of it. He looked up from a table covered in papers as we entered the dining hall. “Ah, the human has returned! It is a shame it is under such dark suspicions. Where are your chains?”

The guard answered, “They did not fit. His wrists are too small.”

The clan leader looked down at my wrists and blinked. “I forgot how scrawny you were. Come, come, sit. This will not take long, I do not believe.” He waved a hand to the area in front of his table. I sat on the hard rock floor.

He leaned over the table. “I also forgot how short you were. Stand, human. I do not want to crane my neck.” I rolled my eyes and stood. “There. Now, do you understand the charge against you?”

“I think so. Some chick said I fucked her.”

“That is a blunt and ugly way of putting it, but yes. What happened that night?”

I took a moment to collect my thoughts. “Alright. The fellow whose life I saved offered me place in his rooms. I accepted the offer. I laid down to sleep. Not half an hour later, a female naga slithered in. She told me that she had been sent as a reward of sorts, a bed warmer. I tried to dissuade her, but she did not like my attempts to do so. Basically, she said that if I did not give her what she wanted, there were twenty other females that would be making their way into my room and taking what they wanted. I did not know that what she was doing was not common practice, or I would have tried harder to stop her. As it was, by the time I realized what was happening, she already had my legs and arms wrapped up in her tail. I was completely immobilized when she started to rape me. When she was finished, she implied that if she left, there would be others that would take her place. So I allowed her to stay the night in my room. She was gone when I woke up the next morning.”

“That is… a different tale than the one we were told. Navarone, let me tell you what the standard punishment for this action is. For a member of the clan, it is marriage if neither of the pair is married. If either is married, both are exiled. If a nonmember of the clan defiles a female, the female is either executed or exiled, based on the severity of the incident and who initiated. If what you say is true, you will be given two options. You may either be inducted into the clan—a very unorthodox move and almost unheard of for something that is not a naga—and the two of you will be wed, or she will be executed. Think about which of those options you want.” That’s an easy choice.

“And if you decide that what she says is true?”

He shrugged. “She will be exiled. The one that originally planned to marry her will not be pleased with you. He might challenge you to an honor duel.”

“A what?”

“A duel of honor. It is self-explanatory, given you know what those two words mean. He gives the challenge, you pick the time and location. If you kill him, your honor is restored. If he kills you, his honor is restored.”

I sighed. “Alright, you’re going to have to explain this. How was my honor ruined at all in this case? And what honor do I even have?”

“The female said that you seduced her. Seducing an unmarried and underage female is terribly dishonorable.”

“Then it is a good thing that she is lying. So how pissed will the guy that’s trying to marry her be when you realize that I’m telling the truth?”

“He will be the one that gets to execute her, if you choose that route. His anger will be with her and himself.”

“Tell him to warm up his weapon, then. He’ll be needing it soon. So how do you guys determine who is lying and who is telling the truth?”

“Our elder is good at reading. He will determine it.”

“Your elder hates me. What if I can offer a better method?”

He crossed his arms. “And what method is that?”

I pulled out my key. “Taya, cover your ears.” She did so. I turned to the guard that was still in the room. “What is your name?” I asked him.

His eyes glazed. “Acciai.” He blinked, shaking his head. “What… what happened?”

I turned back to the naga chief and held the key up. “This thing can be used to force someone to tell the truth.” I tossed it to him and he caught it. “The trick to it is simple: Envision the other person’s mind as a locked box, with the key as the means of opening it. Then ask a question.”

He looked down at the key in his hand. “This is dangerous… Very dangerous.” He looked up to me. “There are questions I could ask with this thing that could… No. Human, did the naga female rape you?” Everything shut down. I felt my mouth move but I have no idea what I said or what I was thinking. I blinked my way out if it, rubbing my temple. “So be it. Guard, bring me the female and the one that desired to marry her.” With that, Acciai or whatever his name was went off.

“What… what?” I stuttered.

Taya hopped up next to me. My hand found her head automatically and gently patted it. “You said yes,” she whispered.

“Forgive me for not trusting you,” the clan leader said, putting the key on the table. “But I need to check to make sure the female speaks the truth as well. I will not be tricked.”

I shrugged. “Fair. When this blows over, I want to hire a teacher to come with me and teach me how to use my sword. How much would that cost me?”

He drummed his fingers on the table. “If you were in our clan, you would just pay his room, board, and meals wherever you went. As you are not… naga teachers are rare for the fact that they are the best. One hundred of the pony bits a month.”

I shrugged. “Deal.”

He gaped. “You jest! That much money is enough to hire a company of our warriors!”

I pulled out a bag of bits and set it on the table. “This should cover the first month.”

He pulled the string on it and slowly upended it. He very quickly counted it out. When he finished, he looked up at me. “Either you grew very prosperous in the time since we last met or time left us behind.”

“I got rich. Very rich.”

He nodded. “If you are found not guilty, this will cover the cost of a teacher for as long as you need him.” He sighed. “I was hoping to use that as an argument to get you to join the clan. Even out here, we hear rumors and word of your exploits. You would be a valuable addition.”

I fluffed my wings. “What would be the benefits of joining? And what would be the downsides?”

“The main benefit is always having a family. We help each other and we are there for each other. Of course, this would mean that you would be required to help as well. Another benefit is that you get in on our contracts, if you are interested. We do not get many, but your pony princess has given us a few in the past year. Nothing big, just minor security jobs and things like that, but it is decent pay. And with your wings… You would be a valuable addition. You would have a home here in our caves and you would have access to the clan’s excess weaponry, not that you could wield many of what we have. You would probably also be hard-pressed to find a wife.”

“What kind of freedom would I have?”

“Oh, the freedom to do anything you liked, as long as you acted honorably and abided by our rules.”

“Shit, I have to act honorably? I’ll pass. I survive by not doing that. Attempting to do it would get me killed.”

He sighed and leaned back on his tail—naga do a weird corkscrew kinda thing with their tails to simulate sitting. “You could be a scout. They have a different code entirely. Survive to get their information back by any means necessary. With your wings and as small as you are, that might be your best option.”

I sighed and ran a hand through my hair. “Would you, in my shoes? I am already a knight of Equestria. I’m planning on leaving this continent soon and I may never return. I don’t know how well my quest will go or if I’ll even survive it.”

He stroked his lower face, as though he had a beard. “You know, a few of us could go with you. I can think of a few that would volunteer, and if you were part of our clan, even more might go.”

I shook my head. “We’re going by airship. Your people do not like flying.”

He nodded. “That we don’t. There is still one that might go with you, the same one I was planning on sending to teach you. He might not like leaving his family, though. It will be his choice, if you would have him. There might be more that would be interested.”

“I don’t know how many we can take. I don’t even have transportation squared away. If the crew that I trust does not help me, I will be going alone and on foot.” I felt Taya gently bump into me. I didn’t say anything. I wasn’t about to take her or anyone else with me to a place where I did not have a safe area.

“The question you asked, though… Would I, if I were you? I admit to not knowing you very well. I have seen you using that devilish ranged weapon and I have heard word of some of your exploits. The naga seek glory and honor and I see in some of your actions that you are the same way, even if you do not admit it to yourself. That is what would drive someone to fight in and win the competition—and I would not be surprised if you won the competition this year as well. You will find no better chances for glory than with the naga. I would join us, if I were you.”

I rubbed the back of my neck and looked up at the ceiling. “Will I have to marry the bitch that raped me?”

“Of course not.”

“Then what would I have to do? There has to be a catch.”

“Normally, you would have to prove yourself in some way. However, there are many of us that know what you are capable of, and as I have said, word of your deeds has spread. If you want to join us, you will join us. That is that.”

I knelt down and pulled Taya over. “Opinions?” I asked her.

“If they ask for help, we might have to drop everything to help them,” she quietly answered.

Who the fuck is ‘we?’ “If they can find us. We’re going all over the world. There’s a good chance they won’t be able to get word to us.”

She was silent for a moment. She looked around the room. “This would be a good safe haven,” she finally answered. “If something goes wrong and we need to flee and Chrysalis isn’t an option, this would be a good place to go.”

She was right about that. Flo? Do you have any input on the matter?

“This place is perfect, Nav. The lake in the center would be the perfect staging area for my sisters and I before we seek the fire elementals and the air elementals. And looking at the naga, it might have been their ancient ancestors that served me and my sisters. They might be useful to us later. I say yes.”

I stood up and looked at the naga. “I’m in.”

A razor-sharp grin split his face. “Wonderful! I know just the female for you, too!”

I held up my hands. “Not interested!” What is it with clan leaders or whatever and trying to set me up with chicks? Actually, that does make sense. Get me to marry someone from their clan or race and I would be tied to them, or so they think. That’s how politics and shit work in a world like this.

“Oh? Taken already? Or,” and here his voice turned dark, “are you one of those girly-boys that prefers other males?”

I grimaced. “I’m not gay.” Braeburn was interesting, but not something I’m certain I want to try again. “That said, though, I have already promised someone that I would give her a chance the next time we meet. Someone more suited to living as long as I will.”

He raised the area above his eye that would be an eyebrow if he had hair. “And just how long will you live?”

I shrugged. “Until something kills me, probably. I’ve got one hell of a long life ahead of me.” And a lot of forces that are making sure that I won’t get killed. “So will there be any kind of ceremony for me joining the clan?”

“First, we have to make sure you are innocent. I believe you, personally, but we have to be sure. If you are proven innocent, the choice will be yours as to what to do with the girl.”

“Is exile an option? I do not like the idea of killing a defenseless woman, even if she did do something like that to me.”

He shook his head. “There are two options. Execution or you marrying her. The circumstances you presented means that she may be executed even if you join the clan, unless you choose to take her for yourself.”

I sighed. “At least make it quick. I do not like the idea of torture.”

“And neither do I. However, the option will not be ours. It is up to the one that chose her and discovered the crime.” I didn’t even know she was a virgin.

I sighed yet again. “As long as Taya and I do not have to watch, whatever. I’ve seen too many killed and I don’t want her to see it. Also, is there any chance we can stay here for a few days?”

He grinned again. “Of course! When you are inducted, you are part of the clan, Nav. You are welcome here for as long as you desire. You will need to choose a clan name, though.” He looked to Taya. “She will not.” He looked back to me again. “You are both welcome here. But I must ask, why do you need to stay here?”

“Long story. It ends in me pissing some of my friends off. I’m having a new house built and I need a place to crash for a week until it’s done.”

“A place to… crash?”

“Stay. I need a place to stay.”

“Ah. You know, you do not need that house built at all. You and your spawn are both welcome here. I admit that we do not have much food that would befit her, but we do have a small number of herbalists for remedies and the like that would be able to find edible plants for her in the wastes.” I really need to find out why people keep calling the places between the far west and the far east the wastes.

I looked around the room. “Is there, uh… anything to actually do here?”

He shrugged. “Tell and listen to stories. Learn of the past. You could explore the caves. You’ll need to tell your story to the historians we have so it can be put onto the wall if any of your deeds are deemed worthy of it.”

Taya spoke up. “I will handle that. He tends to exaggerate certain parts of his stories.”

He grinned. “Some warriors do. I did not figure your father for one of those. There is no harm in exaggeration, though I would ask that you be truthful to the historians.”

I was going to say something about that, but we were interrupted by several naga entering the room. The guard led the group. Several male naga and a few females followed him. I didn’t really know any of them well enough to pick out who was who, and most of them looked the same to me. I only knew who the clan leader was because he was fucking huge.

He looked over to the crowd. “Female, come forward.” The one that I assume was accusing me of seduction slithered closer to our table. The clan leader picked up the key. “Did you take from the human that which should only ever be freely given?”

Her eyes glazed. “He was not as enthusiastic as he should have been, so I removed his ability to deny me. He was putty in my hands, with threats and physical force to hold him.” She jerked and shook her head. “Huh?” She looked behind her, where there was general bedlam at what she had said. The word slut was thrown around a few times.

Eventually, the clan leader banged his fist on the table. “Enough!” The insults and bedlam petered out. “She has admitted her guilt and that she lied.”

She yelled out, “I didn’t say anything!”

“We all heard you,” he answered. “Do not lie again now. You should go to your grave with dignity, if nothing else.” There were a few mutters at that, and I think the coloration her face took on could be called pale. “The human and I had a talk. He does not want you.” He looked behind her to see the only naga that remained silent when she spoke. “The law is clear. Her death is yours. Remove her from my sight.”

The naga that was apparently her betrothed slowly moved forward to grab his now-crying would-be wife. He pulled her back out the way they came. The crowd slowly parted for them, most of them glaring at the girl and giving a few looks of pity to the guy. None of them spared a glance to the guy that got raped. The leader tossed me the key when no one was looking and I quickly pocketed it.

When they were out of the room, the leader called everyone’s attention again. “Now, another issue. I have offered the human a place in the clan.” He paused and there was silence to answer him. “Those that wish to speak against him, come forward.”

Three of the eight males moved forward. The clan leader pointed to one, who said, “He was unable to defend himself against one of our females. Why should we allow him into our clan?”

The leader looked to me for an answer. I sighed. “There are sects of my people that have a longstanding tradition of welcoming honored guests into their homes with women—females. In some cases, the females fight for the honor of having sex with the guest. That girl implied that this was the case here, and that if I did any harm to her that I would be insulting the clan and that another would soon be there to replace her anyway. I thought it a matter of prudence to accept it rather than attempt to fight.” Not to mention the fact that she probably could have smothered me to death with her tail.

The naga somehow slithered back to the crowd, his point apparently refuted to his satisfaction. However, another joined the three that were against me.

The naga pointed to one of the original two. “He is not one of us,” that naga said.

The clan leader spoke, “There is no rule against non-naga races joining a clan. There is precedent, a dragon made a member a number of years ago. I forget the details, though. And Navarone has done more than enough to warrant entrance into the clan, in my opinion.”

The naga shrugged and moved back to the group. The clan leader pointed to the last of the originals. “I was with the group that raided the enemy camp those long years ago. He does not fight as we would.”

“Navarone has, of his own volition, come to me to offer to pay for a naga trainer to teach him how to use a sword our way. Yes, he does not know how to fight like one of us yet, but he voluntarily came to learn. He wishes to rectify his ignorance. And just because he does not fight like us does not mean that he can’t fight. I would not be surprised if he was able to kill us all before we could touch him.”

The naga that accused me looked to me. “Can you?”

I pulled out my goggles and bent down to Taya. “Cover your eyes,” I whispered. She dropped to the ground and covered her eyes as best she could. I reached into my pocket and pulled out a flash bang. I slipped the goggles on, pulled the pin, waited two seconds, and tossed it into the air. I looked away from the blast and a second later, the room was infused with the brightest light most of the naga here had seen in years. Before any of them could react, I had my dagger out and was sprinting around the room, lightly poking each naga. I stopped back where I started, dagger put away.

Of course, it wasn’t as simple as that. There was complete bedlam this time, everyone clamoring about in pain, unable to see a damn thing. There were three people that were unaffected: Me, Taya, and the clan leader that was smart enough to cover his eyes when Taya did. I left him unpoked.

A few seconds after I stopped, the clan leader called out, “Calm down. I imagine what he did was not permanent. He has proven himself as good as I suspected. Are there any that still seek to deny him?” One of the naga raised an arm. “Speak, then. Do not move if you cannot see.”

The naga said, “The human does not know our ways, our customs. He admitted as much when he mentioned how he was taken advantage of.”

“Simple. The trainer that teaches him how to fight will also teach him our customs.”

The accuser crossed his arms. “And why can the human not remain in the caves until his training and education is complete?”

I spoke up, this time. “Because I have my own life to live, naga. I would be a member of the clan, yes, but that does not mean my entire life can be abandoned. If that is not acceptable to you, then that is too bad.”

The naga turned his head to the general location of the clan leader, who said, “What he says is true. He has offered to remain here for one week, should he be accepted.” This apparently satisfied the naga. Or at least, he shut up. “Now, are there any that wish to speak for his entry?” Four raised hands. The clan leader said, “Leftmost, speak.”

“I was in the raiding group as well. The human saved my life. His combat style is different, but not bad. He would be well suited as a scout, of which we do need more. I volunteer to teach him, if you have no others in mind.”

“You are the one I had in mind. Your offer is accepted. Rightmost, speak.”

“The human is famous. With him in the clan, we might draw more business and more fame to ourselves. That which was lost might be regained.”

There were scoffs. I had no idea what that meant. “Maybe,” the leader commented, stroking what would have been his beard if he had one. “You,” he said, pointing to one of the others, “speak.”

Apparently their vision was returning. I don’t know how he knew that. “He just subdued an entire room full of us.”

“Yes, he did,” the clan leader agreed. “The last, speak.”

“He has a very good reputation with more races than most of us have heard of. Should anything go wrong, he will be able to speak on our behalf.”

“An interesting point,” the leader said, nodding. “One I had not considered. True, though. Navarone, name the political leaders you know.”

“Chrysalis, Celestia, Luna, the king of the cats, Bloodbeak, and I met the dragon leader.”

He smiled. “Interesting.” He looked behind me to the naga. “Spread the word. The decision will be made in the main hall this time tomorrow. If anyone has any other points to add, they will come to me personally before that time.” He looked back down to me. “Are you interested in marriage proposals at all?” I quickly shook my head. He looked back up to the others. “He is not looking for a suitor.”

I heard someone mumble something along the lines of, “Not that any would want him.” No one commented.

The clan leader waited a moment for anyone else to speak. “You are all dismissed. Bring the human his weapons. Trainer, you may stay.”

The majority of the naga left the room, leaving Taya and I with the guy I saved all those years ago and the clan leader. “So, human, how did you do that thing with the light?” the saved guy asked.

“Human technology,” I answered. “It’s a chemical reaction between substances that creates light, a loud noise, and a small amount of heat. I only had one tool on me, though, so I can’t do it again.” In fact, that was probably my last flash bang. I would have to make more.

“Is there any chance you could arm the rest of us with them?” the clan leader asked.

I shook my head. “Not unless you know an extremely well-stocked chemist. Even then, without the proper tools, it takes me hours to make each one of those things and I still occasionally make a few of them incorrectly and have to start all the way over. Besides, they can’t be used on an open battlefield, because anyone that used them without warning everyone would blind his own side as well.”

“What about those… things on your face?” the leader asked. “Can we not give those to our fighters?”

I had forgotten about the goggles. I pulled them off. “It’s possible, but even with these, you’ll still get blinded if you aren’t expecting it. If you had been watching, you would have seen that I was looking away. The weapons were made for clearing out rooms. You toss one through a door, slam the door shut, it pops, and you rush inside while everyone is dazed. I wouldn’t want to try to use one on the open field.”

“Very well. Trainer, take Navarone and his spawn to your chambers. Tell him of the ceremony and what must be done before and after. I will have your weapons sent there, human.”

The naga turned to me. “Come, human.” Without waiting for an answer, he turned and slithered back out into the hall. Taya and I followed.

When we got into the hall, I said, “I advise you to rethink your decision to train me, my friend. I can’t stay in the caves. If you decide to take me on as a student, it will have to be in my home. I do not know if I can support you and your family while living in a pony town.”

“I thank you for your concern, but when we take the lifestyle of a warrior, we know that we might be called into battle for extended periods of time. We know that sometimes we will be away from home and our family for some time. I do not believe it will take me long to train you, probably less than a year. There are some things that you simply will not be able to do since you are not a naga, and that will save us some time. I will train you wherever the road takes us.”

“Won’t hear me complain,” I said with a shrug. “I’d rather have someone train me that cares about whether I live or die. And some friendly company in the house when Taya is not there will also be nice. I have to warn you, though: in the spring and summer I do not tire easily. I got cursed since the last time I was here.”

“That sounds like a blessing to me,” he answered. “To be able to move until your body can’t anymore seems like it would be excellent for those that share our lifestyles.”

“I can’t sleep.”

“Then that is a curse. What keeps you occupied during the nights?”

“Writing, mostly. I come from a different world entirely, and this place has none of our books in it. I am slowly transcribing as many books as I can from my world into this one.”

“That is certainly one way to spend the time. I would go mad with that much time all to myself.”

“I don’t know how I haven’t…” I sighed. Sometimes I’m really grateful for Flo. Actually, usually I’m really grateful for her. I just wish she would tell me more often when I’m about to do something really stupid.

“Probably because you are very different from us naga. You have no place on a battle line. You have no place in a battle at all. You belong in the shadows. No, you are not like us at all. But it is good for anyone to learn how to fight, even if they do not think they will ever use what they learn.”

We were silent for some time, just traveling the halls. Finally, I asked, “What do most naga think of those like me?”

“They do not like your style at all. That said, most of them recognize that it is useful. I do not like it, but if it saved my life, then who am I to complain? It will feel good teaching you how real naga fight, though.”

“I imagine that it will be a long and painful process.”

“Well, painful for you. It might eventually become painful for me, once you start getting better and become able to hit me. Speaking of which, what weapon am I training you to use?”

“Sword. I have an axe, but why use a shitty regular weapon when I have one of the only enchanted weapons known to exist?” Discounting the fact that the axe is somehow lighter than it should be. “It’ll never break, never dull, and the slightest scratch will hit my opponent with a debilitating cold.”

“That is the kind of weapon I would like to own. Why is it that you always come here with such interesting things?”

I shrugged. “I’m an interesting person, I guess.”

He turned into a side room and we followed him. I remembered this place from before. He moved to the center of the room and did that weird corkscrew thing. “Make yourselves comfortable.” I sat on the floor, close to a wall. Taya sat against me. “Now, I have two questions for you before we begin. First, who is that?” he asked, pointing to Taya.

“My daughter,” I answered. “Her name is Taya.”

He tilted his head. “Is she mute?”

I looked down at her. She quietly answered, “No.”

The naga shrugged. “Silence is an endearing quality in a little one. My second question: Why do you not seek marriage?”

“My last—and only—experience with a naga soured my ability to have a relationship with one. And I have promised another that I would attempt to make something with her the next time we met. Also, no offense, but I’m not attracted to naga.” At all. I don’t know why, since I find Kumani so sexy. Probably because she has legs.

“It is probably for the best, all things told. I cannot imagine you getting many offers, as I doubt many of us are interested in you either.” He sighed. “And what was done to you… That is unheard of. Did she give you any indication of why she did it?”

I nodded. “She mentioned that she had a dominant side that she was able to use with me, because I was so easily overpowered and controlled.” I felt my wings sag and I looked away. “It was not my best moment.”

“Nor the best moment for the naga. It is shameful that something like that was ever allowed to happen to a guest, and it is even more shameful that it was a guest of mine. It seems I owe you yet again.”

I sighed. “That seems to happen a lot. Maybe one day, I will start cashing in these favors.” I’d rather have them in reserve, though. You never know. “But enough of this. What do I need to know for tomorrow?”

“It’s all very simple. You need to pick a clan name. Then we go to the big cavern. If you are inducted into the clan, there will be a short ceremony where you don’t have to do anything. You’ll tell everyone your clan name and you’ll finally be able to learn our names. Then you spend a while telling the historians your deeds of note, of which I’m sure there are many by now. And then I suppose we leave for your home.”

“Not quite. It will be a week or more before it is finished, I imagine. I’ll be here until then. Will I be given my own room? I do not wish to intrude on you and your family for longer than necessary, especially if you will be leaving them soon.”

He nodded. “You will be given your own chambers, if you are inducted into the clan. If you are not, you will continue to live here as my guest.”

“Alright. Can my clan name be Navarone?” He grinned and shook his head. I sighed and thought. “What about… Cain?” I would use my real name, but I was still holding that hostage.

“That is acceptable. Though from the smile I see, that name means something to you that it does not to me. Why Cain?”

“My people have many myths surrounding the man we know as Cain,” I answered. “He is often considered the first human to murder another human. Some believe that for his crime, he was cursed to live forever, a life apart from his own kind. From there, the myths start getting stranger, but that’s the basic story behind him.”

“And you would want the name of someone with such a dark past and such a dark curse?”

I shrugged. “If the shoe fits…”

“What is a shoe?”

I pulled one of my off and held it up. “One of these. We wear them to protect our sensitive feet from the hard ground. The phrase basically means, ‘If description fits, then you are the word.’ I have a dark past and I have a dark curse. The name Cain fits me now, so I will use it.”

“Very well. Cain it is, if you are made one of us. So, what have you been up to since last we spoke?”

I sighed internally and began the tales.


The next day, the naga guy led us—including his family of one wife, two sons, and a daughter—deep into the caves. Taya was impressed by the sapphire room and the main chamber when we finally got to it. There was already a crowd there when we arrived. Not an overly large one, but I suppose when an ape-thing is being made a clan member of a group of snake/fish things, at least a few people want to be there. Our naga led the way to the center, his family stopping at the edge of the crowd.

The naga clan leader and an elder were standing in the middle of the group. They both turned to me and the leader said, “Long story short, you’re in.” I like these guys. He turned to the elder. “Make it quick.”

The old guy sighed and muttered, “You youngsters these days…” He looked me up and down. “What’s your name?”

“Cain,” I answered.

“Cain, you’re now a member of our clan. Congratulations. Ceremony’s over.” Now I really like these guys.

The clan leader patted me on the back. “We will get you some new weapons, Cain. Surely anything we make will be better than the pony weapons you have.”

I shook my head. “This sword is unbreakable. I wouldn’t mind a few more daggers, though, just in case. The one I have has served me very well, and I would prefer to replace the others I use with more like it.” The curved and slightly jagged daggers the naga prefer are closer to short swords for me than actual daggers, but they get the job done well.

“You should still have a big weapon of our design, just for show. Come, let’s go to the armory.” With his hand still on my back, I don’t think I had much in the way of a choice. He led me and Taya away from the lake and into a passage I had never been down before. I was starting to think this place was actually carved instead of formed naturally.

It didn’t take us long to get to the armory. He stopped when we got inside. “Look around. I will admit that there are probably not many you can use, but you are welcome to take whatever you can.”

I looked around. Weapons of all kinds dotted the walls. I saw swords of all makes, shields, hammers, axes, spears, maces, whips, pole arms, daggers, hand-covers like steel knuckles, and a few things I didn’t even have names for. There were no ranged weapons.

I first went to the dagger table and took two evil looking daggers and their belts. I pulled the sheath off one of the belts and slid it onto the other. That done, I lazily looped the belt around my shoulder to be dealt with later.

I looked around the room again, taking in the weapons. I thought about my past and started giggling, thinking about something. I looked back to the pole arms and located a naginata. I reached up to take it from the wall. As soon as I tried picking it up, I realized how top-heavy it was and how I probably wasn’t strong enough to wield it.

With that option denied me, I took another look and saw a shaolin spade. Well, you never know when you might run into zombies. Then I actually thought about that. The shaolin part of the name implies a lot of training. Without knowing how to use it, I might as well just carry a shovel.

I took another look. Hammers are all too big and heavy. Spears are too long. Maces have the same problem as hammers. Already have an axe and a sword. The hand things are too big. I looked back at the shields. I grinned, a thought coming to me. I gripped one of the smaller ones, a curved buckler. For them, it was a buckler. For me, it covered a good part of my body and was quite heavy. I thought about it for a few seconds before shrugging and taking it. Anything that helps protect me and keep me alive is a good idea to have in my books. I figured I would be getting stronger while learning to use the sword anyway. If not, at least I could say I had a naga shield.

“So that’s what you want?” the leader asked. “Two daggers and a shield?”

I shrugged. “You told me to take a big weapon. You can hit people in the face with a shield, so as far as I’m concerned, it’s a weapon. Just about everything else here is too big for me or would take too much time to learn how to use. I’d rather keep it simple and use a sword or my crossbow.”

He looked at the sword on my back. “And you said it was unbreakable?”

“Yep.” He reached over my head and unsheathed it. He then slammed it against the wall, edge first. There was a horrifying screeching sound as the sword bit into the rock, forced in by his freakish strength. Taya and I flinched at it.

When the sword was in as far as it could go, the naga let go and looked at it in surprise. “By the waters…” He wrapped his hand around the hilt again and tugged. It didn’t budge. “Cain, back up.” I did so quickly, getting out of his way. He wrapped both hands around the hilt and pulled. I saw his muscles bulge and strain and with another horrifying screech, the sword yanked out, jerking him back on his tail and almost sending him to the floor. He looked it over as he straightened himself. “Not a single scratch…” He traced over it with a hand, trying to comprehend it. “How?” he asked, looking back at me.

I shrugged. “Fuck if I know. That sword is older than any civilization that’s alive today. No one knows how it works.” He shook his head, passing it back to me. I slid it back up.

“Come, then. I will show you where you two will be staying. The room has none of your above-ground comforts, I fear, but it is comfortable enough. Although it would be considerably more comfortable if you had a female to coil with.”

“I can imagine,” I drily commented. He just smiled and started slithering back to the main chamber. We passed it and started back on the path to the surface. “So what’s your name, anyway? I’m tired of thinking of you as the clan leader.”

“Rais. Your friend and trainer is called Ames. You will have to ask for more names as you meet others.”

“So what’s with not telling anyone outside of the clan your names anyway?”

He looked at me. “Names have power, Cain. Or at least, to the naga they do. They are something personal, something we share only among those of our own people. That way, they stay special to us. I don’t really know how better to explain it to an outsider. Either way, do not tell anyone else your clan name and do not use any of ours where anyone else could hear.”

I nodded. “Easy enough. What about naga outside of this clan?”

He looked forward again. “That is shady territory. If you feel comfortable with the naga in question, you are free to do so, though I doubt many would reciprocate. Assuming they believe that you actually are a part of a clan, of course.”

Silence returned before I broke it again with, “Celestia has been giving you—us, I suppose—jobs. What are they?”

“We were hired just last year to protect a wedding. We were hidden for some reason, out of sight of any of the ponies, but if anything were to have gone wrong, we would have burst from hiding. We’ve been hired to kill a few monsters that have been known to harass ponies. Nothing big, yet. I thought she had contracts of her own for you, though?”

“Something like that. I got turned into a knight. I was at the same wedding you were, and was the reason nothing went wrong. I led a raid that destroyed a mining colony full of dogs. I was part of a security detachment for an emissary to the griffins and stopped our ambassador from getting killed. It’s been a very busy year for me, all things told.” I wouldn’t mind a few long months of calm, too.

The ensuing silence lasted all the way to what was now apparently my home in the naga cave. “You have free run of the caves, Cain. I suggest not entering any rooms if you do not know who they belong to, however. Naga do not take kindly to thieves, and while you are a member of our clan, there are some that might suspect you just for the way you look.”

I nodded. “Fair enough. When do I need to meet the historian?”

“They will stop by shortly. Your trainer will come by as well, to begin telling you of us. I would not be surprised if he waited to begin your training until you return home. For now, I have to return to keeping the clan running. It might do us good if we send word around that we have a new member…”

I flinched at that. “Can you wait to send that word around until I leave? I don’t want Celestia to know where I am just yet.”

“Of course. Now, excuse me.” He left.

I looked down to Taya. “Well, now what?”

She looked around the dark, barren room. Her horn lit up and a small orb of light appeared. It flew to the center of the room and hung on the ceiling. “Magic time?” she asked.

I shrugged. “Sure, why not.”


That was a nice week. My ‘trainer’ assigned me exercises when he realized just how weak I was compared to him. I figured that it was about time I got into some kind of shape, and since I wasn’t able to get tired, I knew that I could just grind pushups or something until I wasn’t able to move my arms anymore and then do something else. I figured it would take me a month or so to get in a decent enough condition.


Anyway, I was in a pretty good mood when the three of us left the naga caves. I wasn’t looking forward to having to deal with the tongue lashing I was sure I was about to get from at least two princesses and who knows how many other ponies, but I knew what I was in for when I asked Chrysalis for help.

The train guys were very nervous when I came in with a naga, and they gave us an entire car to ourselves. I don’t know if that’s because the naga took up the entire car, or if they just didn’t want the other ponies to freak out about him.

“So tell me human, what is it like living in pony lands?” he asked me.

“It is mostly boring as hell. There are a few spots of activity, but for the most part, it’s just rest and relaxation.” For me, at least, since I’ve never had a job. “I would not be surprised if most of the ponies where we’re going are afraid of you at first. If you desire, I have a ring that will make you immune to magic so if any of the unicorns freak out, they won’t be able to hurt you.”

“No thank you. We are hardy; it’ll take more than a little magic to harm me. The one mare I fear, Twilight Sparkle, knows of us. I believe she will continue doing tests on me if she is given the chance, but I do not mind.” He pointed at my wings. “There are fliers there, yes?” I nodded. He sighed. “Well, I got used to you. If I am able to make a weapon like yours, I will get used to them quicker.”

I smiled at the idea of building a fucking ballista for this guy. “I might be able to help you with that. No promises.”


When we got to Ponyville, we wasted no time getting out of town. The three of us were given looks from everyone on the streets. I’m lucky that Twilight wasn’t out and about, because I would have been hard-pressed to get around her.

As it was, Rainbow Dash was very quick to land next to us right after we got away from the last buildings on the edge of town. “Nav, where have you been? Everypony’s been looking for you!”

“I’ve been with the naga, if that wasn’t obvious,” I answered. “What’s going on?”

“The princesses are in a rage, bro. They are not happy at all about something, and I’m pretty sure that something has to do with you. And Twilight really wants to talk to you. You should probably go see her before you go wherever you’re going.”

“No can do, Dash,” I answered. “I need to check out my new house.”

“…Your new what?”

I raised an eyebrow. “You haven’t seen it? I figured Chrysalis would have made it rather noticeable.”

“Chrysalis?! What does she have to do with anything?”

“Why, she’s the one I asked to build my house! You’ve never seen changeling architecture, so I doubt you’d understand.”

She just sighed. “This I gotta see…” She noticed the naga giving her funny looks. “So you’re a naga, huh? You don’t look so tough to me!”

He reached out a hand that was about as large as her head and gently patted the top of her mane. “It is cute that you think that, tiny pony. I could rip off your wings with a flick of my wrists.”

“Only if you can catch me! I can move so fast I make ponies go through puberty!”

The naga blinked several times, unsure of just what she meant. Eventually he shrugged. “Pony humor is beyond me, it seems. Human, where is this home of yours? I thought it was near the town.”

“It’s… supposed to be,” I said, looking around the edge of the Everfree. “I don’t know where the hell it is…”

“Looks like your good pal Chrysalis left you hanging,” Rainbow commented smugly.

“Actually,” a voice in thin air said, “I did not.” With that, a large wall appeared right in front of us, with a manor rising above and behind it. Chrysalis was standing on top of the wall, smirking. “Welcome home, Navarone. Open the gates!”

Rainbow Dash was just gaping as the gates quickly pulled up. I crossed my arms as the portcullises rose. “I don’t recall asking for gates,” I commented.

Chrysalis rolled her eyes. “And how else did you expect to get over the walls? Come in, come in.” We walked on in. She fluttered down to us. “Now I imagine you’re wondering how one pony—or person—is supposed to open these gates. Your electricity solved that for us, Navarone. Doppel has the code memorized. You can get it from her later. Now come, let me give you the tour.”

“How… how did you hide this?” Rainbow Dash asked.

“Magic, of course,” she answered. “When Navarone asked me to help him, I knew immediately that Celestia would not be pleased with me answering yes. So I did not give her the option of denying me.” Rainbow blinked a few times at that. “Now, on with the tour. As you mentioned, Nav, you wanted a fortress. Sadly there is little we could do to protect you from fliers without putting you underground, but you should be protected from all of the normal plebeians that would seek entrance. However, the manor itself is a fortress. The windows are a special kind of crystal, nearly indestructible. The outer walls are a mix of olivine and some random black stone we just threw together.” That translated to green and black, which I’m sure would piss Celestia and Luna both off. “It would take some powerful magic to put a scratch in this place. The doors are wood, but can be barred with steel shutters.”

“…So how the hell did you do this in a week?” I asked, honestly awed.

“Navarone, you should know this by now. When changelings set out to do a task, we complete the task. Now come inside.” We moved further in, the naga nodding at the obvious strength of the fastness. I saw that there were murder holes on either side of the door, and what looked like a narrow hatch on the top where presumably boiling pitch could be dropped.

When I got inside and we passed the short entrance hall, I stopped. What greeted my vision was honestly a little confusing and a little awesome. I’ll start with the awesome part first: a fully decked out living room. There was no TV, but there was a fireplace, several couches, a few armchairs, and some nice end tables. Most of the furniture had Chrysalis’s color scheme, which was okay.

The confusing part was Doppel in a French maid outfit. Or at least, I assumed it was Doppel. The way she was glaring at me, it was a safe assumption. “Welcome home, master,” she forced through clenched teeth.

I blinked a few times. “Nope, not happening,” I finally said. “Take that shit off and get out. I’m not going to have someone working for me that hates it.”

She sagged with relief before Chrysalis ahemmed. “Doppel is working off a punishment, Navarone. I decided that this would be a fitting place for her. She is here to stay. I figured you would like the outfit, seeing as how it was in your bag when we claimed your items.”

I crossed my arms. “I’m allowed to keep souvenirs from jobs I do.”

Rainbow wasn’t buying it. She was cracking up. “YOU had a Prench maid outfit? For a job from the princess?” She burst out laughing.

I looked over at Doppel and lightly jerked my head at Rainbow. She smirked and morphed into her and turned around. “I don’t know, Dashie. I think you look better in it.” Doppel pulled a duster out from somewhere and bent over to clean something low, giving us a very interesting view before a very red-faced Rainbow Dash blocked us from it.

“That’s not funny!” she cried, trying to make sure none of us could see.

The rest of us disagreed with her, and were trying not to laugh. Well, Chrysalis wasn’t trying. She was chuckling her adorable little chuckle.

And since Rainbow was facing us, she didn’t see Doppel turning around and reaching up to pull her down. The real Rainbow ended up on the floor, held down by the fake one that was looking at the even more red-faced real one with half-lidded eyes.

“Don’t you think I look sexy?” Doppel asked before licking Rainbow lightly on the nose.

“I-I-IHAVETOGO!” With that, Dash somehow burst out from under Doppel and left a rainbow streak as she fled the house as quickly as she could.

And with that, laughter followed. When we calmed down, I said, “Seriously though, get rid of that terrible outfit. I don’t know why I kept the damn thing.”

Chrysalis said, “Doppel, if I hear that you are not wearing that outfit while on duty, I will increase the duration of your punishment.” We both sighed at that. “Now come, there is more to show.”

I shook my head. “We don’t have much time. If I had to estimate, I would give us at most fifteen minutes before Celestia gets here. How about you show us the highlights?”

“Hm. Fine, Doppel can give you a more complete tour later. Come, let me show you the cellar.” I had no idea why she wanted to show us that, but we followed her. She led us down a set of stairs. When we got to the bottom, I realized why she brought us down here. “And here is the source of the power. We found a large aquifer here and knew we could use that to power your home. Admittedly, we do not know how well it will work for extended periods of time. This is, quite honestly, a test. We may come by periodically to improve it, and if it ever breaks down, you know how to contact us. However, this is not all that there is down here.” She led us further into the cellar, past the whirring machines and to a door. She pushed it open. “Above ground pools are not fun to clean. Underground pools are much nicer.” And this one was definitely that. I had no idea how deep it was, but the water was perfectly clear. I could see all the way down to the bottom, where there were lights pointed up. “The water will be cool, as it is fed from the aquifer, but you can deal with that yourselves. I believe this should be good for you, naga.”

He looked at it for a moment before slithering to the edge. He reached a hand down and scooped some water out. He shrugged and slipped in, swimming all the way to the bottom in a disturbingly quick fashion. He was back up in less than a minute. “Ten meters, at the deepest. It is good.”

Chrysalis nodded. “Good. Now, those are the only things I really wanted to show you myself. Now come, let us greet miss spoilsport when she comes to steal you away.” She led the way back up the staircase. “There are many nooks and crannies that Doppel will have to show you personally. How do you feel about it?”

“You and the changelings have outdone yourselves as usual,” I answered, looking around the living room again. “Thank you, Chrysalis. The only way it would be better is if you weren’t going to have Doppel report everything I did to you.”

She shrugged. “Everyone has to make some sacrifices, Nav.”

There was a knock on the door. I went to answer it, but Doppel somehow materialized out of nowhere and beat me to it. She opened it to reveal Pinkie, who wasted no time letting herself right in. “Ooooh! This is gonna be great for a new house warming party!”

Everyone was too busying staring at her to notice Celestia walk in behind her. “There will be time for parties later,” she said. “Navarone, why is there a fortress on the edge of the Everfree, and why does it have changeling colors?”

We all turned to face her, except for Pinkie who was busy Pinkie-ing about my house. I grinned. “Twilight told me to remove myself from her property and I figured my welcome finally ran out. I asked the only race that has been nothing but good to me for a home. They delivered. Welcome to my abode, Celestia.”

I think I actually surprised her with that. She recovered quickly, and gave Chrysalis a short glare that promised words later. She quickly transferred a more neutral stare to me. “Navarone, we have things to discuss. Many things. You need to come with me to Canterlot right away. Alone.”

“I don’t know…” I said, leaning back a little. “I’ve been living in a cave for the past week. I wouldn’t mind sharing some good company in a warm home. I don’t know if I’ll find much of that in Canterlot.”

“We can do this the easy way or the hard way, Navarone. You are wearing your ring, but do not ever think you would win against me in a fair fight. I can remove that ring with my teeth if I have to.”

The naga clenched his hands into fists and glared at her. “You threaten a member of my clan?”

And Celestia got to be surprised yet again. “A member of your… Navarone, just what have you been doing this week?”

I shrugged. “A little of this, a little of that. Joined a tribe of naga, got a trainer to teach me how to stick the pointy end of a sword into the enemy, and obtained a very nice fallback home. You know, the usual.”

She closed her eyes and I swear I saw her lips count down from ten. When she finished she opened them again. “Are you coming with me or not?”

I nodded. “I will.” I turned to Chrysalis. “In case I don’t see you when I return, it was a pleasure.” I wrapped her in a hug before she could react. Her cool and unyielding carapace wasn’t very huggable, but her hair was nice and soft. I let her lightly blushing form go and turned back to the others. “Taya, naga, I should be back shortly. We can begin my training then. Doppel… do whatever servants usually do, I guess. Pinkie, get the fuck out of my house.”

I had no idea where in my house she was, but I heard her saying “Awwww” somewhere. That done, I took my ring off and disappeared before I even had the chance to put it away.

Celestia’s magic forced me into a seat. I found myself unable to move. “Navarone, how dare you let that wretch build a fortress in my country?”

“It is my house and my fortress. She built it and gave me a servant. That is the end of that.”

“If I see any evidence at all that she is using it for anything at all, I will erase it from the face of the planet. I might not give you a warning first. I can’t believe you would insult both me and my sister by going to her for this in the first place, but you did. I will not deny that we deserve it.” She sighed and walked over to her couch, releasing me from the magic that was holding me. I slipped the ring on. “Twilight told me what she did. She realized her error less than an hour after she committed the offense. I don’t know how you could have possibly put your plan into action that quickly, but I commend you for it. Do you know how much the ley line companies charged to get power out there?”

I grinned. “I’m not powering my house with magic.”

She blinked a few times before realization struck her. “Impossible. There is no way she could have progressed her technology that quickly. She would have had to…” She stopped before letting her head fall. “Oh dear Solaire…” She sighed. “We can catch up. We have to.”

“You ain’t doing it with plans from my house. I catch ponies trespassing on my property, I’ll beat the shit out of them and throw them over the wall. Into the forest.”

She narrowed her eyes slightly, but didn’t comment. “Now, we need to talk about the griffins.” I sighed. “Yes, they were not pleased at all. A day after you left, their ambassador delivered a very long and rather mean-spirited letter to me. Less than a week later, the king himself arrived with a few retainers. After a long talk and some negotiations, we talked him down from his original demands.”

“Well, that’s good. What did he want?”

“We’ll talk about that in a second. First, I want you to remember this moment. Just close your eyes and sit here in silence for a little while.”

I raised an eyebrow, but did as she asked. It felt nice to just sit there quietly, focusing on breathing in and out.

When I opened my eyes, I saw Celestia was just looking at me with what I might call a pitying expression. “Are you ready?”


“That’s a shame. Now, let me go get your fiancée.”

“I’m sorry, my what?”



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